Jekyll & Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Nicholas Briggs
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
When Robert Louis Stevenson created this horror story 130 years ago, he also gave our language a common catchphrase for the split personality, or the potential for good and evil in all.
Unwittingly, perhaps, he also left behind a conundrum for anyone reading or adapting the story since. Namely that the audience know the identity of Dr Jekyll’s devilish doppelganger long before anyone on the page, or—as here—the stage, seem to twig...
It rather steals the surprise, and certainly takes any fright out of the night, but it does not stop the industrious Talking Scarlet theatre company doing its beastly best to inject some dramatic darkness back into the story.
It’s been adapted here by director Nicholas Briggs, who also adds an effective sound design and original music. His background working on Dr Who is aurally evident. It’s also all achieved at breakneck speed, in two 45-minute acts.
The elaborate plot demands all sorts of flashbacks that require framing of scenes within scenes and are played out around dark and perpetually smoking ruins which might have been borrowed from an army firing range.
The cast of ten play out a busy game of Hyde and seek, several doubling up as other characters and all managing to make street scenes look convincingly crowded. And it’s hardly a plot spoiler to reveal that the production gets round the transformative nature of the main character in two ways, since the clue is in the programme.
While it’s all undoubtedly faithful to the characters and gothic style of the original, the occasional exchanges between the upright amateur detective Gabriel Utterson (played by Neil Roberts) and more laconic Inspector Newcomen (Ben Crowe) suggest that a little more humour might be just what this Dr Jekyll ordered?
Reviewer: David Upton